Photos: CU-Boulder touts 4/20 success despite boundary breech, concert disaster

CU-Boulder's decision to ban campus visitors and close Norlin Quad in an effort to shrink the annual 4/20 event prompted an unsuccessful court challenge and plenty of controversy.

But despite security breaches and a free Wyclef Jean concert that failed to siphon off more than a handful of students, a CU-Boulder spokesman was pleased by the response as a whole.

"I think it worked very well," says CU's Bronson Hilliard (disclosure: a longtime friend). "There were no confrontations with police, which was great. There was no violence, and there was no crowd of ten- to twelve-thousand people on the Norlin Quad."

Not that the campus was entirely free of 4/20 related activity. Despite officers at every major campus entrance, a sizable group of students managed to mark the occasion by lighting up. Here's Hilliard's account.

"From where I was, the crowd kind of converged from two areas," he recalls. "There was a group that marched onto the campus from the Hill, and a group that was on the steps of Norlin Library -- and once they heard about the first group, the group from the library joined the crowd. I think they were on the way to Farrand Field, but they stopped at Duane Field, a little complex behind the physics complex. It's kind of a sunken field; it's got a slope to it. And I would say there were maybe 300 active smokers and then sort of a ring around them up on the elevated portion on the hill that I'm guessing was anywhere from three- to five-hundred people who were watching.

"They all assembled within around fifteen minutes," he continues. "Wyclef Jean's brother showed up and invited the crowd to come to the concert. Then they had the light-up, and everybody dispersed within about a half hour, without incident as far as I know."

There was no wave of arrests at 4:20 p.m. Indeed, despite warnings that officers would be "more active" when it came to handing out tickets, the number of official police contacts was actually lower this year than last. The CUPD made three arrests for trespassing on the quad and issued eleven general trespassing citations and one summons for possession of marijuana -- fifteen actions total, as compared to 28 (five arrests and 28 tickets, most pot-related) in 2011. For that, Hilliard credits the campus force.

"They're really trained to deal with a wide range of things on a college campus, and they have a live-and-let-live philosophy," he maintains. "They're very friendly, professional people, and they enforce the law without resorting to extreme tactics. I think we were all incredibly impressed by the way the police conducted themselves, and the way they interacted with the crowd. And there were a lot of people who went up to police and said, 'Thanks for doing this. Thanks for helping us put an end to this in a way that was really professional.'"

Granted, the image of the response that may stick with many TV-news viewers involved an officer chasing a student across Norlin Quad while a huzzahing throng looked on. But Hilliard hardly sees that as emblematic of the day.

"There was one kid who sprinted across the field and got tackled," he says. "But that happens at football games, concerts and public events all the time. There's always one person who's trying to make a statement and draw attention to himself. And the others who were sitting on the field were treated professionally. They were escorted off the ground, not manhandled, and they were given a chance to extensively address the media during the walk to the paddy wagon. So I think it was a fine day for the police."

Page down to read more about CU-Boulder's take on this year's 4/20 event and see more photos by Britt Chester.
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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
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